Dwight W. Ellis House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 133 Longhill Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:


Dwight W. Ellis was born in Monson, Massachusetts in 1885, and was the son of textile manufacturer Arthur D. Ellis. Arthur’s father, also named Dwight W. Ellis, had established a textile mill in Monson in 1871, and Arthur took control of it after his father’s death in 1899, adding a second factory in 1908. After Arthur’s death in 1916, the younger Dwight acquired the firm, which became A. D. Ellis Mills Incorporated in 1923. Over the years it made a wide variety of textiles, including uniform fabric for Annapolis, West Point, the Marine Corps, and the New York Police Department, as well as cloth for such diverse uses as billiards tables, caskets, and automobile upholstery. The mills produced upholstery for the White House cars, and also for the car used by Queen Elizabeth II at her coronation in 1952.

Although he spent much of his life in Monson, Dwight W. Ellis moved to Springfield in the late 1920s, along with his wife Marion and their three children. Here, he purchased property on Springfield’s exclusive Longhill Street, and built this Tudor Revival-style home, which was described in a 1980s city library pamphlet as “the most extravagant mansion ever built in the Forest Park neighborhood.” It was designed by the Boston-based architectural firm of Chapman & Frazer, which specialized in Medieval-inspired designs such as this, and cost some $60,000 to build by the time it was completed in 1928.

The Ellis family was still living here when the first photo was taken a decade later, and Dwight’s mills were still prosperous. During the 1940 census, his income was listed as “over $5,000,” which was the highest income bracket on the census, and despite the Great Depression, the family could still afford to hire two live-in servants. However, by the middle of the century the New England textile industry was struggling, and the Ellis mills were no exception. In 1958, Dwight’s son, Dwight Jr., testified before a U.S. Senate hearing, explaining the company’s plight, which he blamed on stiff foreign competition and low tariffs. He told the senators about the conpany’s long history, their high-quality fabrics, and their state-of-the-art production methods, before explaining how they recently had to lay off half their workers and close one of the mills.

In the midst of the company’s financial problems, the older Dwight sold his house to the Melha Shriners in the mid-1950s. They expanded the house to use it as the organization’s headquarters, and the renovated building was dedicated in 1959. This included a large addition to the back, but the front of the house remained essentially unchanged, as the two photos show. Unfortunately, things did not end so well for Ellis or his mills. With both his company and his health failing, 75-year-old Dwight committed suicide in 1961, leaving Dwight Jr. to take over as president until the following year, when the nearly century-old firm finally closed.

 

Today, the house is one of the many early 20th century mansions that still stand on Longhill Street, and it is a contributing property in the Forest Park Heights Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. It has remained as the headquarters of the Melha Shriners ever since Ellis sold the house in the 1950s, but earlier this year the organization announced plans to sell the property. Amid declining membership and high upkeep costs, the Shriners are looking to downsize in order to focus on their primary mission of supporting Springfield’s Shriner’s Hospital, so as of right now the fate of this building seems uncertain.

Robert Darling House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 215 Longhill Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

Most of Springfield’s Forest Park neighborhood dates back to the turn of the 20th century, when it became a popular place for Springfield’s wealthy residents to live. Prior to this, was only sparsely settled, with a small community centered around the corner of Longhill Street and Sumner Avenue, with the latter being referred to simply as “the X road.” A city map from 1870 shows about two dozen houses in the vicinity, plus a school, cemetery, and a few brick yards, but otherwise the area was still rural, despite being located just to the south of downtown Springfield.

All of this began to change at the end of the 19th century, however. Forest Park was established in the 1880s, and by the following decade trolleys were running to and from the park, making it easy to commute into the city from here. By the turn of the 20th century, most of the land near Longhill Street and Sumner Avenue had been subdivided, and new streets were laid out across previously undeveloped land. Nearly all of the older homes were ultimately demolished to build newer, more fashionable ones, and even the cemetery was replaced by the Sumner Avenue Elementary School.

This house, located on the east side of Longhill Street, just south of Sumner Avenue, is one of the few surviving remnants of the old neighborhood. Built around the early 1850s, it was once the home of Robert Darling, a Scottish immigrant who came to the United States in 1853 when he was about 20 years old. He was living in this house by at least 1870, and during the 1880 census he lived here with his daughter Elizabeth, his sister-in-law, and his nephew. He was a longtime employee of the Armory, and the 1900 census indicates that his job involved gas plumbing.

Around the same time that large-scale development began in the area in the late 19th century, Darling built a second house on his lot, located just to the south of here at 223 Longhill. Although still modest compared to the mansions that were soon to be built along the street, it was still larger than his old house, and by 1900 census he was living in this house along with Elizabeth, her husband Edward L. Janes, and their daughter Edith. He still owned the old house, though, and rented it to Appleton Greenwood, an elderly retired store clerk who lived here with his wife Eliza.

After Robert Darling’s death in 1912, Elizabeth and Edward inherited both houses, and continued to rent out 215 Longhill. By 1920, their daughter Edith was married and living with them at 223 Longhill with her husband Alvin W. Fuller, while Alvin’s mother, Martha, lived here at 215 Longhill with her brother Walter, sister Deborah, and Debora’s husband Austin. After Walter’s death in 1927, the other three continued to rent this house, paying $35 per month in 1930. However, all three of them died in the mid-1930s, shortly before the first photo was taken, and the house appears to have been empty during the 1940 census.

WeaVery little has changed in the appearance of this house since then, and it survives as the oldest building in the area. It has seen the area transformed from a small farming community into a  wealthy suburban neighborhood, and its plain architecture contrasts with the elegant early 20th century mansions that now surround it on Longhill Street. Along with these other homes, though, it now forms part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

David C. Coe House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 237 Longhill Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:

This house was built in 1908, and was one of many upscale homes that were built on Longhill Street at the turn of the 20th century. It was originally the home of David C. Coe, a tailor who had a shop on Main Street here in Springfield. Originally from Kansas, where his father had been a merchant and a Civil War officer, David later came east with his father and settled in Springfield. In 1901, he married his wife, Laila Phelon, and they had three daughters, Mary, Carolyn, and Kathleen.

The Coe family was still living here into the 1930s, but Laila died in 1935 and David moved out soon after. By the time the first photo was taken a few years later, the house was being rented by Howard S. Stedman, the president and treasurer of the Dentists and Surgeons Supply Company. At the time, and his wife Marion paid $80 per month, and lived here with their two children, Barbara and John. In 1942, though, Howard purchased the house outright, and lived here for the rest of his life, until his death in 1958.

The house would remain in the Stedman family until it was finally sold in 1977. Since then, very little has changed, and the exterior of the house remains well-preserved as a good example of early 20th century Colonial Revival architecture. Like the other homes on Longhill Street and the surrounding neighborhood, the house is now part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Silas L. Kenyon House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 259 Longhill Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The scene in 2017:

This massive Colonial Revival-style home was one of many mansions built along Longhill Street at the turn of the 20th century. It was probably completed around 1906, when the address first appears in the city directory, and was originally owned by Silas L. Kenyon and his wife Ella. They were in their mid-50s when they moved into this house, and they lived here with several of their adult children, including their daughters Estella and Ruth. However, Ella died only a few years later in 1907, and in 1908 Silas married his second wife, Grace M. Pierce.

Silas Kenyon was the treasurer and manager of Fiberloid, a cellulose manufacturing company that had been founded in Newburyport in the late 1800s. This early type of plastic was used to manufacture a wide variety of consumer products, ranging from shirt collars to dolls’ heads to piano keys. Unfortunately it was also highly flammable, and the Newburyport factory was heavily damaged by a fire in 1904. The following year, the company moved to Springfield, where Kenyon and the other officers built a new facility in Indian Orchard, along the banks of the Chicopee River.

The Kenyon family moved to Springfield around the same time as Fiberloid, and Silas lived here in this house for the rest of his life, until his death in 1917. His company would go on to outlive him, and his son-in-law, Howard R. Bemis, would later succeed him as treasurer of Fiberloid. In the 1930s, the company was acquired by Monsanto, which operated the Indian Orchard facility until 1997. After several more ownership changes, the site is still used to manufacture plastics, although it is drastically different from when Fiberloid moved there over a century ago.

In the meantime, Kenyon’s house was sold shortly after his death, and by 1918 it was owned by Harold A. Ley, who lived here with his wife Anne and their four children. Harold was the president of Fred T. Ley & Co., a Springfield-based construction firm that he and his brother Fred had established in 1897. Early on, the company had primarily built trolley lines in and around western Massachusetts, but by the early 20th century the company had become one of the area’s leading building contractors, constructing prominent buildings in Springfield such as the Hotel Kimball, the old YMCA building on Chestnut Street, and the Masonic Temple on State Street.

By the time Harold moved into this house, the company had moved well beyond the Springfield area, with projects in Boston, New York City, and beyond. Among these was Canp Devens in Ayer and Shirley, Massachusetts, as well as the Boston Arena, an indoor ice rink that would go on to become the first home of both the Boston Bruins and the Boston Celtics. By the mid-1910s, they were constructing luxury apartment buildings and other buildings in New York City, and by the end of the decade they were also involved in projects in Lima, Peru.

In 1919, the company moved its headquarters from Springfield to New York City, and went on to build a number of buildings there. Harold left the company two years later, though, in order to devote his time to the Life Extension Institute, a philanthropic organization that he had helped to found in 1913. As a result, he was not involved later in the decade when his brother’s firm took on its single most important construction project, the Chrysler Building, which was the tallest building in the world when it was completed in 1930.

Despite his growing ties to New York, Harold was listed in city directories as living here in this house until at least 1924. However, he subsequently moved to New York, and the 1930 census shows him and his family living in Yonkers. By 1927, this house was the home of Louis and Nell Bauer, who either owned or rented it until around 1929, when their own house was completed nearby at 386 Longhill Street.

The Bauer’s appear to have been the last residents of this house, because it is listed as being vacant in the 1929 city directory, as well as those of subsequent years. When the first photo was taken about a decade later, the house was still vacant, and it remained unoccupied for a few more years, until it was finally demolished in 1942. Nearly 80 years since then, most of the historic mansions on Longhill Street are still standing, but this house is one of the few exceptions. The property was never redeveloped, and today it remains a vacant lot within the Forest Park Heights Historic District.

Harold G. Duckworth House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 368 Longhill Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:


In the first half of the 20th century, the southern section of Longhill Street was one of the most desirable parts of Springfield, and was the home of many of the city’s wealthiest residents. Located just south of downtown Springfield, on a ridgeline above the Connecticut River, many of these homes enjoyed spectacular views, and were situated right next to Forest Park, the largest park in the city. In keeping with architectural tastes of the era, a number of the homes, including this one, had Tudor Revival-style designs, evoking the appearance of an aristocratic English country estate.

Nearly all of the mansions here on Longhill Street were built before the start of the Great Depression, and this house, completed in 1931, was among the last to be built. It was designed by the architectural firm of B. H. Seabury for Harold G. Duckworth, a chain manufacturer who had previously lived in a more modest home on Forest Park Avenue. He and his wife Alma had two children, James and Susan, and they were all living here when the first photo was taken later in the decade.

Harold died in 1961, and Alma lived in this house until 1983, when she sold the property. She was in her 70s at the time, but she would go on to outlive both of her children, and she died in 2003, just a few weeks shy of her 104th birthday. In the meantime, her former house has remained well-preserved, with no noticeable changes between the two photos. Along with the rest of the neighborhood, it is now part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Harry B. Slingerland House, Springfield, Mass

The house at 283 Longhill Street in Springfield, around 1938-1939. Image courtesy of the Springfield Preservation Trust.

The house in 2017:


This elegant English Revival-style house was built in 1927 for Harry B. Slingerland, a stock broker who also served as vice president and general manager of the General Ice Cream Company. During the 1930 census, he lived here with his wife Etta, their two daughters, and a servant, and the house was valued at $60,000. Equivalent to nearly $900,000 today, this value was comparable to the value of most of the surrounding homes, which were located on what was one of Springfield’s most desirable streets.

By the time the first photo was taken in the late 1930s, this house was the home of Dr. Alfred M. Glickman and his wife Rose. A Springfield native, Dr. Glickman graduated from Tufts in 1921 and worked as a surgeon here in Springfield. He also served as chairman of the school committee, becoming the first Jewish person to hold the position, and he later became the namesake for the Alfred M. Glickman School in Ashland Avenue. Rose was also very involved in civic life, and served as a director for a number of organizations, ranging from the Massachusetts Health Council to the Girls Clubs of America.

Dr. Glickman died in 1954, but Rose continued to live in this house until her death in 1980. Since then, very little has changed with the exterior of the house, and it it continues to stand out among the predominantly Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival mansions on Longhill Street. Along with the other homes in the neighborhood, the house is now part of the Forest Park Heights Historic District, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.